Book review · Gardening · Non-fiction

Book review: ‘How to be a gardener’ by Alan Titchmarsh

I found this book for 99p in a second-hand shop and thought it might make a useful reference volume. When I got it home and looked at it more closely I decided I should read it right through from cover to cover.

How to be a gardener
‘How to be a gardener (book one)’ by Alan Titchmarsh (2002)

The book was brought out to accompany a television series of the same name sixteen years ago. I don’t remember seeing any of the programme, but in those days I wasn’t particularly interested in gardening.

This is the first in what I think is a two volume set, and it deals with the basics of gardening. In the first couple of chapters Alan explains what plants are and how they grow. This bit of the book took me back to school biology lessons and I was pleasantly surprised when things I’d forgotten I knew began coming back to me.

In the following chapters the book describes how to plan borders, design flower beds and deal with weeds. Going through each of the four seasons, it explains what needs to be done in a garden at certain times of year, and suggests ways to keep the garden interesting all year round.

Routine, and more specific, garden maintenance is gone into in some detail, including a whole chapter on how to look after lawns, and there’s quite a bit of information about how to garden organically.

I read this book over a number of days during my breakfast and each morning I learned something new and helpful. I hadn’t expected it to be such an easy and enjoyable read, and I’ll be keeping my eye out for the second book in the series when rummaging through second-hand bookshops.

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Flower · Garden · Gardening · Nature · Perthshire · Photography · Scotland

Friday photo: sunflower

This lone sunflower fortuitously sprang up unexpectedly in the garden. For several weeks I’ve been watching with interest, waiting to see what it would look like when it flowered. A couple of days ago its petals unfurled and it’s been attracting bees ever since. I’m looking forward to collecting the seeds and planting more next year.

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An unexpected, and most welcome, sunflower in the garden.
Nature · Perthshire · Photography · Scotland · Weather

Friday photo: cow forecast

Apparently, more than 60% of Brits believe that cows lying down indicates rain on the way. According to the Meteorological Office, the position of cattle in a field has nothing to do with weather conditions and probably means they’re just tired and needing a rest. I took this photograph yesterday morning when the sky began to look quite threatening. It did rain, but not until about six hours later. Make of that what you will.

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Forecasting the weather, or just having a rest? Cows lying down near Blairgowrie, Perthshire.
Fife · Flower · Garden · Nature · Photography · Scotland

Friday photo: musk mallow

Yesterday, while wandering around the magnificent walled garden at Cambo Estate near St Andrews in Fife, I came upon a drift of beautiful pale pink musk mallows (Malva moschata). I bought a packet of musk mallow seeds earlier this year and am looking forward to growing them in the spring. Mine are white with just a touch of pink in the middle, but I wouldn’t mind some of these lovely pale pink ones as well.

musk mallow
Pale pink musk mallows at Cambo Estate, near St Andrews, Fife.
Book review · Non-fiction

Book review: ‘The ascent of Everest’ by John Hunt

‘The ascent of Everest’ is a first-hand account of the 1953 expedition to Mount Everest, when Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary became the first men to set foot on the highest point on Earth.

Written in engaging style by the expedition’s leader, I found it difficult to put down (despite it being rather a heavy hardback for bedtime reading), and enjoyed it immensely.

the ascent of everest
‘The ascent of Everest’ by John Hunt (1953)

This weighty tome, which explains how the mountaineering project came about and how two remarkable climbers eventually reached the summit on 29 May 1953, was completed in just four months following the successful expedition.

The author, John Hunt, was a Colonel in the British army when he was chosen by the Joint Himalayan Committee to lead and organise the trek, and by all accounts he was an excellent choice. His warmth, humour, and appreciation of his fellow men comes across clearly in his writing, alongside his exceptional mountaineering knowledge and outstanding organisational abilities.

Although there were technical aspects of the story I didn’t fully comprehend, the sense of adventure carried me along from beginning to end. I think I especially appreciated reading it while tucked up and cosy in bed, imagining those brave chaps shivering in wind- and snow-battered tents on a hazardous mountainside. Incidentally, the chapter dealing with the final ascent was written by Edmund Hillary, one of only two men who could have written it from personal experience.

I’ve read a couple of other books about Everest, but this was one I had wanted to read for a long time and I was delighted when I found it in a second-hand bookshop recently. I would heartily recommend it to anyone interested in tales of adventure and exploration.

Architecture · Fife · Photography · Scotland

Friday photo: cobbles

A cobbled lane in the conservation village of Culross, in Fife. Walking round Culross (pronounced Koo-ross) is like stepping back in time. Many of the old walls and buildings date back to the 16th and 17th Centuries and there are lots of little lanes and curious features to be discovered.

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A cobbled lane in the Fife village of Culross.